“What is faith?” and other easy questions

At some point in the process of faith formation with our children or other friends and family, it’s common that we reflect on key questions about faith and what they mean to us, personally.

Sometimes, this reflection occurs when we are stopped dead in our tracks, as in a child’s question at bath time: “mommy, how do you know there is a God?”

Other times, it’s a slowly creeping realization that your inherent view of your faith hasn’t changed much for many years. But, through a series of questions or events, you have begun to realize that you lack the deeper answers that you took for granted were’ always there, second nature to you.

Whatever the path towards reflection, all you know is that (for some reason) the “I just know” that you always said isn’t good enough for you anymore, even if it seems to satisfy your kids.

I thought I’d pose a few of these easy questions, sharing how I’ve tackled them, over a series of posts including:

  • What is faith?
  • Why is it important?
  • When does it form?
  • How do we keep it?

First, what is faith? I used to think that faith is believing without a shadow of doubt that God is a reality. When I was little, I knew for certain that God is real. But as I got older, I began to hear questions and listen to other points of view.

Like: If there is a God, why is there so much suffering? If God is real, why aren’t my prayers always answered? How can you say God created the heavens and earth in 7 days, when the scientific evidence clearly doesn’t support that view?

My faith was no longer certain; instead, I relied on my belief in God as something I could feel…just as love can’t be proven, but it can be felt. This was the answer I was standing by.

As I matured, however, I realized there were times I couldn’t even feel God. Those were times when hardships and health issues and death became a reality. Where was God? I sure didn’t feel that presence.

Once again I had to find a new answer. And so, faith became an act of wrestling, questioning, and (finally) after realizing there were no answers, I let go.

With nothing to cling to, except a small amount of faith, the size of a mustard seed, I began to see God as a mystery that I cannot possibly know. In the mystery, I saw the beauty of the world and it was good. I saw the diversity of people and it was good. I saw the diversity of religious institutions and cultures and it was good.

As I saw the beauty through the eyes of God, I began to appreciate ALL, even things that were different….different people, different viewpoints, different religions and the diversity is good. And because of it, I am always surprised by the wonder of this presence, this being (the Old Testament “I AM” if you will), this entity called God.

That is when I began to see the world in a new light; one where I was not the center of the universe, but where God was. I began to see God present in the polarity of peoples’ diverse views. As much as I wanted God to be on my side of an issue, I discovered that we are interconnected. And in the “connective tissue,” God joins diversity together.

If God is for me and you, how can God possibly be only one way?

So, what is faith? I think simple, powerful response in the Bible is right: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (from Hebrews 11:1) But, I also think my faith is a continual process of change. The continual process is in the discovery and redefinition of the phrases from the Bible passage “things hoped for” and “things not seen.”

What is it you hope for? What are the things you don’t see but believe are possible? Follow your answers to those questions, and you will find your faith.

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